Developing a brand step-by-step

Nov 2, 2021

Exciting times

It is a very exciting time in a company’s genesis or evolution when leadership envisions the need to develop or refresh their brand. The process of creating a new brand should be a collaborative experience and a galvanizing journey—one that inspires leaders and teams to move a company forward. Having carefully selected an agency partner, there will be a series of steps, common to most agencies, which are undertaken in the development of a new brand. Developing a brand step-by-step will help guide you through the process. If it is helpful to learn more about selecting an agency, you may wish to to review our post on choosing the right agency partner.

 

Discovery meeting

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The initial project kickoff meeting should be a discovery session whereby the client and agency reiterate the company’s needs and expectations as well as review the full scope of work. It is an opportunity to review the details of the proposal and confirm timelines.

 

Strategy

Brand strategy is the initial phase in the development of any brand. Strategy will set the tone, messaging and direction of all future brand-building initiatives. A well-engineered strategic brand framework will clearly articulate the brands:

Vision: Where we are headed at a visionary level

Mission: How we will get closer to our vision

Target Customer: Whom we must win with

Brand Promise: What we promise the customer each and every time, at all points of contact

Proof of Promise: The truths that prove we deliver on our promise

Brand Personality: A set of human characteristics associated with a brand. These characteristics provide a way to differentiate your brand to make it distinct and enduring and connect your target audience(s) to your brand.

The brand strategy document should be tabled to the client for review and any discussion. It is important that this phase be understood and approved by the project team and the senior leadership team as the strategy will become the foundation for growth moving forward.

Note on process: Some agencies may differ slightly in approach when it comes to strategy. For example, some branding agencies may choose to develop a series of “Personas” to illustrate the client’s target audience. This depends on the agency and, more specifically, the company, service or product.

 

Creative

It’s at this stage that things begin to get colourful. The creative development phase of the project has various components:
Research and discovery: Where the agency dives deep into what a client’s competitors are doing. How are competitors positioned in the market? How are they approaching creative? Are they using specific terminology? What degree of value competitors are placing on positioning and design?

Creative development: Most firms will develop a series of concepts, usually three, which illustrate how the brand will live in various environments. Concepts should display the mark, typography, colour, collateral, print and digital examples so the client can easily comprehend the overarching visual language or design system. Creative concepts are presented to the client project team for review and discussion. The client will follow up with feedback and tactical recommendations or suggestions. This is the time for strategic discussion as it is important for all parties to understand that the creative should be a clear, visual articulation of the brand strategy. This is followed by selecting one concept to be finalized.

Revisions: Revisions are made to the selected concept based on agreed timelines. A final presentation deck is put together for the client to approve.

 

Note on process: Some firms add a stylescape or mood board step to the process prior do beginning creative. This steps helps bring the client along on the creative journey by presenting boards which illustrate various, strategically driven, overarching aesthetics—one direction is generally selected from which the creative development will be based. Some agencies include this process and some do not. Often it depends on the client’s prior experience with the brand building process as well as timelines.

 

Production of assets

The scope of work outlined in the proposal will determine which assets are to be provided to the client. Generally, a minimal set of deliverables would include the client’s brandmark in various formats for print and screen reproduction and a style guide. A more robust list of deliverables may include print-ready stationery files, stationery and presentation templates, white paper or proposal templates and a photography/illustration library. Assets are compiled into a digital asset library and access is provided to the client.

 

Hand-off and support

It is important for agencies and clients to agree on how their assets will be stored and updated as well as who will be creating future assets and collateral material. Some companies will have internal resources capable of taking the assets provided, along with the brand guidelines, and produce all future business collateral for print and web. This is the opportunity for both parties to discuss how future brand-building initiatives will be supported. For example, if the agency has developed a website for the client, who will maintain it and update it? Who will be managing the site’s SEO? A good branding and design agency should be willing to offer support and direction where there is a gap in the client’s resources.

 

Project management and collaboration

The brand development phases outlined above are a good representation of how many agencies work. However, it is important to note that between, and during, those phases will be constant communication and collaboration to ensure the project stays on track and within the scope of work. On a daily operational basis the agency will be responsible for client communications, meetings, schedules, third-party vendor communications, and logistics.

 

A rewarding experience

This guide, Developing a brand step-by-step, is a good overview of how most agencies approach a branding project. For those who have never engaged an agency for brand work, this guide should help with a general outline of what to expect. Launching and creating a new brand, is an exciting time. Choosing the right branding agency, and knowing what to expect, will make the process enjoyable and rewarding.

 

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Strano + Pettigrew Design Associates is an award-winning branding and design agency based in Toronto Canada serving clients nationally and abroad. For new business enquiries contact us at: studio@stranoandpettigrew.com